1. It was the Jays day on Sunday afternoon, as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown carried Boston to a victory.
The game against Milwaukee was a nightmare for Jayson Tatum. It was one of the worst shooting games of his career. As he has in the past after a bad game, Tatum bounced back in a big way. He had his shot going early against Portland, as he scored 21 of his 34 points in the first half.
The Trail Blazers play a similar defensive style to the Bucks, which gave Tatum a lot of the same looks that he missed against Milwaukee. Here’s a simple pull-up against the drop defense:
One of Tatum’s best skills is to make something out of nothing, as he does here:
This shot is something you’d like to see Tatum go to more when his jumper isn’t falling. Zach Collins has no chance at guarding Tatum off the dribble, and Tatum gets to the rim for the and-1:
Those three clips are Tatum scoring at all three levels, which he does as good as anyone in the NBA right now.
2. What also sets Jayson Tatum apart is his defense. Against the Blazers, he guarded everyone from Damian Lillard to Zach Collins. Late in the game, he guarded either Lillard or C.J. McCollum on most trips. Earlier in the game, he primarily had Carmelo Anthony and he didn’t respect his elder at all here:
3. Where Tatum is really going to grow is as a passer. When the season paused, it was all about Tatum learning to make the right passes when he gets blitzed and doubled by the opponent. Against Portland, Tatum set a career-high with eight assists. Six of the eight came in the second half, as the Blazers did what they could to get the ball out of his hands.
Tatum hooked up with Hayward out of the trap on this one:
In the fourth quarter, five of Tatum’s assists went to Jaylen Brown. First, he found Brown on the break:
Tatum set his new career-high on this drive-and-dish to Brown for the huge triple:
4. Jaylen Brown stepped up big with 22 of his 30 points coming in the second half, including 16 points on 6-of-6 shooting in the fourth quarter. Brown got it going early by knocking down a pull-up triple against Jusuf Nurkic on a switch:
You saw a couple of other late baskets above, but another big one was this double-clutch fallaway:
5. With everyone healthy, despite Kemba Walker’s minutes limit, Brad Stevens stuck to his double-duos approach. He likes to keep at least two of Walker, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum on the court at all times. There were a couple of points where Tatum was out there by himself, due to Walker’s restriction, but over all at least two were on the floor most of the time.
6. Kemba Walker looked good again. He looked quick and shifty. He had 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting. When Walker is scoring, it opens him up to make plays off the dribble like this:
7. Gordon Hayward’s effort will get lost a bit because of how good Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were, but he was also terrific. Hayward scored 22 points on just 10 field goal attempts, and he grabbed eight rebounds. He also showed up as a playmaker. On this play, Hayward uses his patience to draw the defense before finding Enes Kanter for the easy layup:
8. Speaking of Enes Kanter…he played a terrific game off the bench. So much so, that Brad Stevens trusted him to be in the game late. Kanter scored 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds, including five offensive boards, but what kept him on the floor was solid defense.
Portland knows how to attack Kanter better than anyone, but the big man did a good job of moving his feet and keeping his hands high all game. On this play, C.J. McCollum thinks he has an easy drive, but Kanter stifles the layup attempt:
Bonus: At the end of the clip, watch Kanter hustle down the floor to get in rebounding position against Damian Lillard.
9. Marcus Smart wasn’t the scoring dynamo he was against Milwaukee, but as always he makes winning plays. Here’s an example with a big help block on Carmelo Anthony:
Bonus again: Enes Kanter again runs the floor and this time gets an easy putback.
10. So far, everything has been a positive. That was the case for the Celtics for most of the game. However, in the second half, the Trail Blazers picked apart Boston’s drop defense. Portland started running their actions way up the floor, which Brad Stevens talked about pregame with Damian Lillard’s ability to shoot from deep. That opened up a ton of three-point looks for the Blazers guards.
In the past, the Celtics wouldn’t always adjust and it caused them to get cooked. It’s happened several times this year, most notably with Caris LeVert of the Brooklyn Nets. This time around, Boston started jumping Lillard to get the ball out of his hands. That approach relies on the smaller players to provide some rim protection. Jaylen Brown does a great job of deterring Jusuf Nurkic at the rim in the fourth quarter:
On Portland’s last meaningful possession, the Celtics adopted an extreme “no threes” defense. All five players are at the arc. This is great time/situation basketball. The Blazers had no timeouts left and there is under 10 second to play. Allowing them to take the quick two has little to no impact for Boston. This was a nice defensive set drawn up by Stevens and executed by the players: